The gate has been opened and water is moving over the spillway at the Lake Gaston Dam in Thelma at the rate of 12,000 cubic feet per second.

In the 50 years this dam has been in operation, according to Dominion Energy spokesperson Daisy Pridgen, this is the first time that the spillway has been opened. The Lake Gaston Dam was built in the 1960s for power generation and any water going over the spillway is considered a waste but the company needs to repair and do maintenance on equipment so, at this time, it is necessary.

“Scheduled replacement of equipment in the power house requires shutting down the turbines at the dam and in order to maintain lake levels, the gate will be partially opened for the next 10 days,” Pridgen said.

The company announced in January that it would open the gate but that date was rescheduled because frigid temperatures in the North made it necessary for Fortune 500 to continue generating. Dominion is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, according to its web site at dominionenergy.com.

With about 31,000 megawatts of electric generation and 93,600 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines, Dominion Energy serves nearly 7.5 million utility and retail energy customers and employs more than 21,000 people.

Because Dominion is under normal operating mode at this time, according to Pridgen, the water going over the spillway won’t have much, if any effect on Lake Gaston residents.

“The lake levels will stay between 199 and 200 (feet),” she said.

Pridgen did caution, however that opening the spillway gate will generate a tremendous amount of turbulence and currents – beyond normal levels - in the areas adjacent to the dam.

Boaters and sightseers are encouraged to exercise extreme caution when going anywhere near the dam and are urged to maintain safe distances.